| 7 December 2023, Thursday |

‘Half the village is gone’: Ukraine hamlet reels after missile strike

In a burial plot next to a field outside the remote Ukrainian hamlet of Hroza, residents removed undergrowth and cleared away litter to make space for more graves.

Working quietly, it was something to distract them from the horror of what happened the day before.

As dozens of people gathered in the local cafe for a meal to honour a soldier who died in the war against Russia, a missile struck, killing at least 52 people.

It was one of the most deadly attacks during 20 months of fighting, and one that has devastated the tiny, tight-knit community.

Shock is giving way to grief, as well as questions about how the Russians could have known about the gathering in what some Hroza residents say was a deliberate attack.

Among those killed was Olya, 36, who is survived by three children. Her husband died too.

Her father, Valeriy Kozyr, was at the cemetery preparing to bury her and his son-in-law.

“It would have been better if I had died,” he said quietly as he wept. “Oh God, you cannot punish me like this. To leave the father and take the children!”

Wiping tears from his face, the 61-year-old explained that he must now work out how to care for his three grand-children aged 10, 15 and 17. Kozyr wants to bury Olya and her husband side-by-side in a single grave.

He told Reuters he was not in the cafe on Thursday because he worked night shifts as a security guard, and so was spared.

  • Reuters